THE MEDIA CRISIS – Foreword, 2014 (French)

Over a decade ago, I completed a new version of my website dealing with the media crisis, which was published in book form by Alain Dichant of Homnispheres (Paris) as Media Crisis, with a second edition in 2007. Cédric Biagini of Éditions l'échappée (Paris) is now publishing a third edition.

Many of the themes referred to in this updated Introduction are expanded upon within the main sections of Media Crisis, but some are new, and appear on these pages only. I have not updated the main text of the website, simply because most of the problems remain exactly as described – though many of them have increased over the years.

In the mid-1970s, I was invited by the Department of History at Columbia University in New York City to lead two summer courses dealing with the role of the MAVM, and it was there, during our analysis into the interior language form of TV (news broadcasts, and drama series such as Roots and Holocaust), that the students and I discovered the standardised use of the Monoform (as we named it). We not only counted the number of cuts (edits) in each news story, and how often the camera shifted perspective within a shot (zooming, panning, tilting, etc.), we also examined factors such as air-time given to the opinions of the public as opposed to the presenters, and to moments of silence.

We were surprised not only by the sheer speed, but also by the repetition and uniformity of image change (editing). Regardless of subject matter, form of presentation (news broadcast or TV drama), emotional and intellectual content, the structural use of time and space was identical. The average image length in all of the material that we examined was approximately 7 seconds. Today it is probably down to 3 or 4 seconds, and sometimes much shorter.

The following is a list of other strategies, some of which are explained in greater detail in The Media Crisis, that are enforced by those who control the MAVM, in order to maintain their economic/political power and dominance over both the public and media professionals in general:

  • legitimising the exploitation of ‘entertainment’ (with its indisputable power to subvert and distract) throughout all forms of presentation;
  • controlling all agenda and content (subject and theme) to fit the ideology of the consumer society and the existing economic order - known as the gate-keeper process;
  • standardising the language form, while ensuring that there is no critical debate about the creative damage that it has caused to the development of the cinema and TV;
  • assuring that the relationship (process) between the MAVM and the public remains hierarchical, functioning uniquely in a one-way direction;
  • using speed and abbreviated, fragmented time to ensure that the public does not have space to reflect or consider alternatives;
  • reassuring the public that MAVM viewing material is harmless and non-manipulative (including by using the mythical words 'objective', 'factual', 'balanced', 'impartial');
  • restricting information regarding these strategies from any holistic analysis or critical debate, either in public or within the education process;
  • working with education systems to ensure that students and apprentice filmmakers accept these strategies as representing 'standard professional practices';
  • using repression, the marginalisation of dissent, and professional isolation, to ensure that all of these strategies are not publicly challenged;
  • engaging with the public in an elaborate act of subterfuge - pretending that none of the above is happening.
 

I would now like to share a brief resume of the personal life journey that is at the root of my critical assessment of the mass audiovisual media, cinema and TV in particular.

In the mid-1960s, after some years as an amateur filmmaker, I produced Culloden and The War Game for the BBC. The first film dealt with the final attempt by the Highland Scots at a Jacobite rebellion in 1746, and the brutal repression which followed its defeat; the second film examined the likely consequences of a nuclear attack on Britain.  

Culloden had a considerable impact when shown on BBC TV in 1ate 1964, but The War Game was banned by the BBC in 1965 from world-wide TV screening for 20 years. The resulting scandal, and the fact that I resigned from the BBC and fought publicly for the film to be shown, resulted in an increasing marginalization of my work amongst the film profession in the UK, which I left for self-imposed exile in 1968.

I spent the next 10 or so years trying to raise money for my film work, and travelling to schools and universities, mainly in North America and Scandinavia, to lecture on the problems of the nuclear arms race, and on the need for the mass audiovisual media (MAVM) to become more independent and courageous in their programming. In 1969, I released the first of my critical public statements on the media. 

Initially, my own films – Culloden, The War Game, Punishment Park - also used the Monoform, for it was the language form I had absorbed as being the only correct filmic ‘grammar’ form. It, and the concepts of ‘objectivity’ and ‘impartiality’, had been drummed into me both during my early years of TV watching, and in my training as a young producer at the BBC. Despite the fact that I was not yet conscious of the Monoform, I was, however, already trying to challenge the concept of documentary ‘reality’, by giving my films the appearance of a ‘live’ documentary. In this way, I hoped that the incongruity of a film about a battle that took place in 1746, which looked as though it was happening in the present, or a ‘realistic’ film about an event which in fact had not happened (a nuclear attack on Britain), would raise questions about the validity of so-called ‘documentary reality’. 

During the courses at Columbia University I came to understand that my use of various filmic strategies to subvert the traditional documentary form was nonetheless enclosing these strategies within the strictures of the Monoform, and entrapping the audience in a hierarchical language form - thereby placing my work into a contradictory position.

In the 20 or so years following the analytical work at Columbia, I tried to develop other forms of filmic structure and process, which I was able to apply on exactly three occasions: in 1986 in The Journey (a 14-hour global peace film), in 1994 in The Freethinker (a biography of August Strindberg), and in 1999 in La Commune de Paris. Only the last of these three works was financed by my profession. Without exception, every one of the international state TV organizations that we approached for funding for the filming of scenes in The Journey in their own country, had refused to help us.

In fact, these ‘post-Monoform’ films have become the most marginalized of all of my work, mostly - as is claimed by my profession - because they are too long. The real reasons for the marginalization obviously lie elsewhere... witness, for example, the reaction by a producer at the National Film Board of Canada, who, after watching a few moments of The Journey, shouted in anger: “what is all this about?!” Or that of the senior commissioning editor for a German TV station who, within the first few minutes of the screening of The Journey at the Berlin Film Festival, threw back his seat and angrily stamped out of the theatre. Or that of a commissioning editor for ARTE-TV, who, after helping to fund La Commune de Paris, declared that I had “failed in my purpose”, and that the film needed to be re-edited in order “to help the public”. ARTE subsequently refused to show La Commune during normal viewing hours - broadcasting it between 10:00pm and 4:00am instead - and refused even to release it on video, as was standard procedure at that time.

These personal examples illustrate the hostile reaction by the MAVM to alternative form or process. Other filmmakers could cite their own experiences, but often decline to do so publicly, for fear of losing funding, and/or of being isolated by the compliant ranks of the MAVM.

 

The section on the website entitled Réalisateurs, festivals et répression was written based on the fact that very few of the film festivals that I attended since the 1960s were not intent on programming as many films as possible (reminiscent of a supermarket), thereby leaving very little time for audience discussions. By “discussions” I do not mean the perfunctory 'Q and A' sessions, with questions about how the director made the film, what lenses were used, funding, etc. I mean discussions that take into account essential democratic issues, such as how the films communicate with the public, and the role that is played – or not - by the use of the standardised Monoform.

Some 4-5 years ago, I contacted the organizers of a small documentary film festival in France, which, I discovered, was advertising “debates” with its screenings - but which was showing approximately 30 films over one and a half days. To me this seemed to be not only overload on its own account, it clearly could offer no time for discussions. I also enquired if the festival planned to discuss the Monoform at any of its debates. A thoughtful reply from one of the organizers stated that they would try to address the problem of scheduling for their next festival. One of his colleagues also wrote to say that his attempt to raise the issue of the Monoform with other filmmakers at the festival was met by a “violent” response - which I took to indicate that many documentaries were still favouring the use of the Monoform.

I recently received another letter from the former same festival organizer, who wrote that there is now more careful consideration on the part of the festival organizers as to the question of form. Apparently one of the organizers, who had been totally opposed to showing films that are longer than 52 minutes, had discovered and loved a Chinese film that is over 9 hours long! According to the letter, all of the selected documentaries are far from Monoform TV standards – e.g., no music, no voice over, long-held images, etc. They also try to show fewer films, in better screening conditions and with appropriate discussion time, which often focuses on form, sound and image, rather than just on content.

The organizer stressed that my original criticism of film festivals was no longer applicable, that the situation is now polarised (“two worlds separated”) - that the one is still dominated by television and the Monoform, but that the other endorses a minority of festivals defending the auteur vision, a multiplicity of forms, and (sometimes) a certain political commitment. 

He wrote that such festivals allow for more time (perhaps over an hour) to discuss films with the director, but I did not gather that these discussions usually encompass the Monoform. The festival organizer did admit that he remains critical of some of these alternative festivals, including for their excessive number of films and the size of their catalogues – much like cultural supermarkets.  

I refer to the contact with this small French film festival because it raises some issues that I did not deal with when I wrote The Media Crisis. Admittedly, I have not attended a festival for some years now, due to the increasingly uncomfortable position I find myself in by being critical of the standardised language form of so many of the films/documentaries that are shown. I sincerely hope that the climate within the cinema and documentary movement is changing, as the festival organiser suggests, but with respect, I would like to add a few words of caution.

Notwithstanding the existence of “two worlds separated”, my worry is that they both regard themselves in terms of 'exceptionalism' - one seeing the necessity of the Monoform and a consumer-based mass audiovisual media, the other (at present in the minority) advocating the importance of the independent auteur, and of festivals that show this type of work.   

In film theory, the auteur view deems it important that a film reflects the director's personal creative vision, free from the commercial demands of the MAVM. However, while the individuality of the creative voice is, naturally, very important, within the context of the media crisis it can raise certain contradictions. Most importantly because theories such as this, which proclaim, if you will, the sanctity of the director, make no mention of the sanctity or role of the public within the cinematic process. 

Given the manner in which the MAVM and TV have developed, the public have traditionally not held a more meaningful role than as 'watchers' or 'receivers', and my concern is that the auteur theory will continue to create a sense of exceptionalism in favour of the filmmaker, at a time when we urgently need to reconsider the relationship between the media and the public.

 

Exponents of media popular culture (a dominant element in contemporary media education) argue that the public participate in the experience of TV and cinema viewing by virtue of the potential for a shared discourse regarding the contents: 'Did you see what happened to xx last night in the episode of xx?... the same thing happened to me recently ...” “What do you think about their reasons for separating? ... I don’t agree...', etc. Although this exchange is not to be dismissed, reference to it as a means of raising the level of democracy in a society is misleading - not only is media popular culture more extremely standardised by the Monoform than any other type of MAVM, its widespread use has not in any way led to a critical public debate on the role of the media.  

In further attempting to expand on the role of the public, I’d like to say a few words about process as distinct from language form. In terms of my own analysis, process is the relationship between the mass media and the public, and in general, there is little doubt that the media maintain a distinctly hierarchical relationship to the public - one which they are very vigilant to maintain, including under the guise of their freedom of expression.

Most national constitutions or bills of rights proclaim freedom of expression for the media - but rarely mention freedom of expression for the viewing public. If they do, it is never in terms of a balanced relationship between the media and the public – i.e., one that includes an equal and shared dialogue with both sectors listening to each other - where, in effect, democratic input from the public contributes to a real exchange with the MAVM, not only about the content of messages, but also about how this is affected by the form and process of delivery. Such an exchange rarely occurs because the media apply the premise of ‘professionalism’ to separate themselves from the public. Many an ill and many a problem - social hierarchy, to begin with - are created in its name.

And yet, wouldn't it be fair, at this point, to conjecture that a universal role for the various categories of mass audiovisual media might be that of 'communication' in one form or another? After all, aren’t the MAVM referred to as tools of “mass communication”? - if so, what exactly does that mean?  

Historically, Hollywood producers have defined their role in terms of “telling good stories” (which have commercial potential). The Monoform was developed (and standardised) strictly for this purpose. For Hollywood, “communication” was never meant to be a process of openly sharing a narrative with the people receiving it - it was designed for producing material along a hierarchical, one-way process (from the professionals to the public), with no return/input possible. 

Tragically, this one-way process was not only aped some 50 years later by television, it has also warped the development of documentary film. And it need never have happened if a wide-ranging public debate and inquiry had taken place during the origin of these forms of media ('where are we going with this, why are we doing it, what could be the consequences?'). The entire course of the development of the MAVM might have been very different - and probably much more democratic.

Unfortunately, the more negative human characteristics and motives won the day. One result of the MAVM developing as it historically did is the stranglehold, since the 1970s, by 'alternative' TV channels over the documentary film movement. Now an aspect of the media crisis, a number of their commissioning editors have routinely behaved with immense hypocrisy in enforcing the Monoform, whilst cloaking their tyranny with pretences of being radical and progressive. 

 

Professional cynicism, another trademark of the heads of the MAVM, is truly exemplified in the following example, including in its reference to the unfortunate development of attention span deficit, especially among younger generations.   

In September 2013, the well-known American actor and stage director, Kevin Spacey, gave the showpiece Guardian McTaggart lecture at the annual Edinburgh TV Festival, to an audience of TV executives. He urged the industry to “nurture talent”, and to give audiences what they want, when they want, in the form that they want: “If they want to binge, then we should let them binge.”  

Spacey recounted how Netflix, the American digital giant, “ran the figures” through a computer, and agreed to finance the series entitled House of Cards, in which he stars and of which he was the executive producer. Spacey said that the success of this drama series, whose 13 episodes were all released on the same day, provided content-makers with new insight into audience behaviour.

“For years, particularly with the advent of the Internet, people have been griping about lessening attention spans.... But if someone can watch an entire season of a TV series in one day, doesn't that show an incredible attention span?”

According to Spacey, as they become accustomed to “bingeing” on video series box sets, audiences are demanding “complex, smart stories”. “When the story is good enough,” he said, “people can watch something three times the length of an opera.”

Spacey continued: “The audience has spoken: they want stories. They're dying for them... And they will talk about it, binge on it, carry it with them on the bus and to the hairdresser, force it on their friends, tweet, blog, facebook… and God knows what else...  All we have to do is give it to them.”

Not only were Kevin Spacey’s contemptuous remarks received with much applause and enthusiasm by the assembled media professionals, the website video (edited in Monoform, of course) accompanying this item showed a BBC presenter informing us that individuals in the UK are now watching 28 hours of TV per week, and querying in a mocking tone: “Weren't attention spans supposed to be in decline?!” This was followed by several young people excitedly describing their “binge” viewing: one young woman had spent an entire weekend non-stop watching all of the episodes of E.R..    

Subsequently, a head of ITN (British Commercial TV) stated that the standards of TV are going up, because people are now spending more time watching TV, where previously they would spend time reading novels (!).

 

Another of the many unchallenged issues of the media crisis (which I may not have adequately emphasised on the website), is the fact that the MAVM continue to increase the speed of the Monoform, in keeping with the idea that as people become jaded by the relentless barrage of media images, they need to be jolted into staring at the screen (similar to a jockey whipping a flagging race-horse in the final stretch). Thus the following reference within MAVM and media education institutions: 'we need to have more impact here' ... 'our purpose is to have an impact on the audience '... 'if you shorten this shot, you will have more impact...' etc.   

The MAVM regularly use speed and fragmentation to create a series of high-impact points, shock cuts, and startling juxtapositions of image and sound, which in turn create a deliberate process of entrapment that is devised to 'catch' and keep the audience in 'watching mode'. This aspect, the use of speed and impact, is integral to the issue of the Monoform in contemporary society, and my work has been concerned with the meaning of, not the exceptions to, this problem.

Perhaps one way to consider the issue of audiovisual media ‘communication’ (surely an essential element in the debate), is to see it in terms of a message that one wishes to convey to a person in an audience: I can write the message (content) on a piece of paper, place it in a metal film can (form), and hurl it as hard as possible (process) towards the person, so that it hits him/her. That’s the ‘impact’, Monoform, method. Alternatively, I can go up to the person, sit beside him/her, quietly impart my message, and wait for a response and a developing dialogue. That’s the human communication method. The different processes have very different consequences for the person, or people, in 'communication'.

There is little doubt that the ‘film can’ method of ‘communication’ is what is generally practised by the MAVM, and (with the rare exception) taught by media institutions and film schools around the globe – regardless of the “cutting-edge” descriptions of their pedagogy. An added worry here is the fact that education systems are introducing standard film and video training into increasing numbers of secondary schools – regardless of whether or not the pupils have any intention of entering the MAVM. 

An article headed Les médias, tout un monde à décrypter, in a French newspaper in central France, where I am writing this Introduction, describes an association of teachers (presumably part of the state education system), who are introducing media studies into local secondary schools here. The stated object of these studies is to « déveloper chez les élèves une attitude critique et réfléchie vis-à-vis de l’information ». The article states that this media programme involves over 14,000 schools, 186,000 teachers, 3 million pupils! More than 5,000 meetings are to be organised between the pupils and media professionals. 

These classes aim to introduce pupils to the “diversity” of forms of information, such as the press, radio, television, and internet. They will also help students “to decode” the various forms of information, and to ask questions regarding the manner in which the information is presented, and “reality” translated. 

Significantly, the article continues, a further objective of these media classes is to “tisser (weave, like a spider) des relations constructives avec les professionals de médias”, and to develop users of the media who demand information “de qualité”. 

Of course, it is possible that the media studies referred to here are – or will be – genuinely critical of the standardised media. I sincerely hope so! However, my documentation over the years of a number of media training programmes in different countries, where progressively labelled programmes claim to teach young people to decipher how films are made, has shown that the real purpose is mostly to assist young people to better appreciate the 'aesthetic pleasures' of 'higher quality films' - which usually use the Monoform. Significantly, teaching programmes such as this invariably organize meetings for students with MAVM professionals/specialists, not with filmmakers who work with genuinely alternative, critical audiovisual forms. 

 

Several years ago, I was approached by a group of young students in France who were studying at various media schools, with a view to working as professionals within the MAVM. They said that they were tired of the “boxed-in” pedagogy they were receiving, and asked to discuss alternative forms.

After several productive workshops, I sent each student a questionnaire, with a view to publishing their responses, which I hope to do on another occasion. For now, essentially what they recounted more than confirms the problems I refer to in these texts.

Some of the students described the contradiction of their teachers discussing the MAVM in critical terms, and then expecting them to carry out their video exercises by adhering to the standard rules of the Monoform. They also said that some teachers do not think that a Monoform exists, that they perceive an existing diversity of films. Further, that although there was some discussion about the effect on the viewer of different editing rhythms, there was no reference to the global impact of the majority of standardised films and TV programmes, or to the responsibility of filmmakers in this respect. One student noted that although some teachers acknowledge the existence of certain standardised practices, there was no discussion of the implications.    

A typical example of the undemocratic nature of Monoform media practices is the customary policy of TV organizations, when preparing news broadcasts, to structure into each news item those features that will elicit an overall desired reaction from the viewer. There is no allowance, in either form or process, for any audience participation, or reaction, that might subsequently determine how an item would be perceived.

In view of this, it is interesting that one of the students also noted that the teaching process was based on creating a script or storyboard: even a documentary to be filmed in 'Siberia' had to be defined in advance in terms of image and sound! There was no room in the pedagogy for improvisation by the students, let alone for any input from those being filmed, that might shape the course or direction of the film.

In reaction to my concerns about the media crisis, a media teacher at a French university insisted that, “the standard practices” of the MAVM are “normal” and “necessary”, that it is correct to teach them to media students. When I asked if he was referring also to the Monoform, he immediately reneged, claiming that he only meant instruction on how to use the equipment, which buttons to push, etc. He then somewhat contradicted himself by saying that, naturally, media students were allowed to make “alternative” films if they so wished, but that the university concentrated on “standard practices” because the “alternative students” would never find work in the media industry. It does not seem to occur to such media academics that, by fostering and teaching non-critical complicity with the MAVM, they are not only subverting the 'unbiased' education that they are supposed to be offering, they are also playing into the hands of the centralised media system, and weakening students’ capacities to develop individuality in their own work.

At the end of the 1980s, I wrote a 300-page report on the state of media education in Sweden (where we were living at the time). The Report on Media Education in Sweden: the need for inter-active film languages (1992) was produced with the support of a senior administrator at a media training institute which was a branch of the Swedish Film Institute. We sent questionnaires to all regional school authorities, who in turn were asked to contact the schools in their area. We raised questions regarding media education, including whether it was critical, etc. A number of teachers responded, mostly in a very constructive manner, but their answers, in terms of the overall picture of standardised, non-critical media education country-wide, were troubling. 

A well-known film pedagogue and TV producer, responsible for several highly popular TV series in Sweden, was travelling around the country at the time, giving courses on the standard techniques to engage audiences with the media popular culture. His impact on the development of TV in Sweden was legendary - he claimed to have instructed nearly everyone (directors, producers, writers, stage designers, cameramen, many TV executives) at the Swedish Broadcasting Corporation over the past 15 years. Early in the process of preparing the Report, I had interviewed this man on his teaching methods. He said that he had worked at an editing table, studying classic films, and described how he “went through them, picture by picture, and found that they all worked the same way, no matter where they came from, in their initial attack, exposition, deepening of crisis, escalation ... and they were very different in style and theme...”.  

When I asked about his role as a pedagogue, he replied: “If you should build a table... I could go out into the woods and try to put a table together... but I say, myself, I don’t know how to build a table, so I go to a craftsman, who has built a thousand tables... so when I go into the woods, I know how to build a table, to make it better and safer as a table.”

Later that year, after reading one of my questionnaires, this producer telephoned our home in Stockholm. Gone was his previously reasonable tone: he literally screamed “how dangerous” I was to the work that he and his colleagues were doing, and ended with, “How would you feel if some damned amateur sent you questions like this?!”     

The institute that had commissioned the Report discussed it at one meeting of their pedagogical staff, and then stowed it away in a cupboard. Former staff at this institute recently confirmed that the Report was never used. A few years after producing it, I also wrote to approximately 70 gymnasiums around Sweden, proposing that I visit, to discuss what I had learned. I received one reply.                                                   

 

Returning to the issue of another level of audience participation in the media process... A more democratic relationship between the filmmaker and the viewer can be developed via the language form, as designed by the 'auteur'. The American film scholar and author Scott MacDonald has, over the years, documented the work of alternative filmmakers whose films probe beyond traditional forms and processes, in a series of published detailed interviews. To take one example, Scott describes how the Vietnamese filmmaker Trinh T.Minh-ha used spontaneous panning shots in Naked Spaces – Living is Round, in order to contextualise her personal relationship to the villages in Africa where she was filming. Such a ‘strategy’ changes the perspective of the viewer, and thereby moves away from the usual hierarchical relationship created by the standard techniques of many Western filmmakers.  

On another level yet... Involving the public even more directly in the creation of a film (deciding on a scenario, sharing editorial decisions regarding language form, etc. ) notably decentralises the decision-making power, and may have unexpected results: a community of fishermen that participated in the creation of a documentary film by the National Film Board of Canada in the 1960s, ended up designing a fishing boat better  suited for its local sea conditions. There is no absolutism here! Whether filmmakers develop, or the public engage in, any future alternative processes, is entirely their choice. The key struggle now is to create, and legitimate, that process.

Why could there not be a public, rather than just an auteur, theory? Why not a combination of the two... as another aspect of popular culture? Perhaps this is the debate that is now developing within the new generation of film festivals?

The Monoform need not be eliminated! Even if as a form it is problematic when used incessantly, in and of itself it is a legitimate language - one of a variety that could be used to present the themes and narratives of cinema and TV. The concern is that the Monoform has been chosen to the exclusion of all others, as the official rhetorical form of the MAVM. It is “the grammar of the people”, according to an executive head at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The problem is that “the people” were never privy to a debate regarding this fact.

Equally necessary is the development of alternative processes in media education - not ones directed by media professionals harboring compromised agendas, but ones that take into account a range of democratic TV and cinema possibilities. Progressively-labelled media programmes that do not allow for these alternatives are a fraud. True education does not profess commercial indoctrination, the threat of unemployment, the pretext of 'professional quality' masking a standardised curriculum, or the rejection of critical dialogue with, and among, students.  

The responses by the group of French media students who worked with me were very encouraging in terms of their expressed need for an increased critical awareness, and their desire for greater freedom of expression. Hopefully, smaller film festivals around the world are also now beginning a process of critical dialogue. But as Kevin Spacey and Co. have shown, there is still a long way to go before genuine communication between the MAVM and the public is achieved.

We can only speculate on how different our world might be, had the agendas of the MAVM shown more compassion and less cruelty and competition, more consideration for our planet and its inhabitants and less uninhibited consumerism, more tolerance of 'the other' and less – far less – violence and aggression.

As I write these words, a global petition movement has issued a passionate appeal on the Internet for world action regarding the environmental disaster: “We're about to launch the biggest climate change mobilisation in history, with marches from New York to Paris to Rio.”  There is not a single reference to the role of the mass audio-visual media in fomenting this disaster. In fact, the appeal asks people for donations, in order to “create big and bold stunts to create buzz in the media”, to bring “spokespeople from vulnerable communities to provide the media with powerful voices from the front lines of climate devastation”.  

Unfortunately, this media “buzz” (rapidly edited, fragmented, fleeting sound-bite interviews, mixed with commercial messages) is the last thing our crisis-ridden civilisation needs. 

It is not the purpose of The Media Crisis to depict the public as ‘victims’. Paradox-ically, because we are all participants in the MAVM game, we all have a direct responsibility for what is happening. It is the role of the MAVM to have us believe otherwise, and it is our role to redefine the rules of this game - and even better - to eliminate them altogether. 

Some may argue that changes are happening alongside the development of digital technology, but here again there are many problems, including vis-a-vis form and process, with direct and indirect undemocratic consequences. Internet networks and new generations of inexpensive digital equipment can offer enormous possibilities for public participation in the media on a vastly wider scale. Nevertheless, this potential must not overlook the fact that we need to ensure that our historical refusal to debate the issues of process and form in the MAVM, is not repeated where they apply to the new technologies.       

On a recent trip on a crowded metro train in Paris, my wife Vida observed numerous young people seated comfortably, intently using their tablets and portable phones - completely oblivious to the elderly people, and women with small children, who were left to stand in the crush around them.

Peter Watkins,
Felletin, France 2016
Edited: Vida Urbonavicius

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© Peter Watkins 2016